Food for Thought

Plastic and Your Pet: The Hidden Toxin

by Susan R. Stoltz

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Plastic. It has become an integral part of our lives in every aspect. Even the keyboard on which I’m typing is plastic. What if I told you that plastic could be killing you and your pet? Stick with me readers as I give you a brief history.

Squeakies Variety Pack Dog ToysIn reality plastic has been around for the past 100 years. Its infiltration into every aspect of our lives is recent to the past 50. Look around you right at this moment. How many things can you see in front of you that are made with plastic? Water bottles, keyboards, cell phones, watch bands, calculators, shampoo bottles, dishes, eyeglasses, pens, scissor handles, plastic food containers, food wrap, shoes, garbage bags, the list is so endless it is no surprise that we seem to be slaves to its convenience.

In the last half century plastic has been perfected, made more durable, and become much more affordable. Let’s face it, it keeps food fresh, is indestructible, and for all practical purposes now indisposable. Mankind has become so reliant upon plastic it’s difficult to imagine life without it, but what, exactly, has it been doing to our health, environment, and future? I say let’s narrow the subject down to this. What effect is it having on our pets? Hang on pet owners; just a bit more scientific explanation is worthy.

Plastic is rife with the chemical we call BPA or Bisephenol A. BPA has only recently been examined for the negative effects it has on all those who come in contact with it. According to a pharmaceutical report “The leaching of BPA from the polycarbonate plastics and the polycarbonate plastic lining of containers is particularly alarming in light of the serious health risks associated with BPA ingestion.

More than 200 lab animal tests to date strongly suggest that BPA exposure, even at very low doses, creates risks of dangerous developmental, neural, and reproductive health effects in infants and children. Exposure to BPA, even at low and short-term doses, is linked to a staggering number of health problems, including: breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity, impaired and altered immune systems, miscarriage, chromosome abnormalities, Down’s syndrome, impaired learning and memory, increased aggression,….” and the list goes on. Most canned food, including dog and cat food, is lined with BPA to prevent a ‘metal’ taste in the food it stores.

pet aisleSo, it would be fair to surmise that if BPA’s are doing so much damage to humankind, what effect is it having on our pets? This time look at your pet’s world. Plastic food storage, plastic bowls, toys, crates, chews, squeakies, gates, ball, Frisbee, pill bottles, and tags, to name a few. As I walked down the aisles of one of the pet product stores where I live every aisle was filled with plastic and every product was packaged in plastic. The longer a product is stored in that plastic the more BPA’s are leached into that item. Plastic in extreme temperatures leaches larger amounts of BPA, so freezing in plastic and microwaving in plastic increases the incidence of exposure.

‘Endocrine disruptors, such as BPA, may very well play a part in the etiology of classic reproductive disorders and cancers, as well as diseases not often linked to hormonal activity — immune system conditions, learning and behavioral disorders, diabetes, and even obesity. If BPA does indeed contribute to any of these epidemic disorders, the potential ramifications for public health are far-reaching.’ ~ Environmental Working Group – Bisephenol A: Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food: BPA and Human Diseases on the Rise
It’s interesting to note that in September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance. The United States, on the other hand, is dragging its feet on the issue mainly due to big corporate lobbying and funding.

glasstreatjarThe solution? This is tough. I’ve been working hard to eliminate the plastic from my own life and thus, the life of my pets. Food storage is fairly easy. I switched dog treats from a tall plastic container to a tall glass one instead. Dog food went from a highly convenient plastic storage bin to a less convenient but much more healthy stainless can with lid. I’ve been fortunate in that my dogs don’t enjoy playing with plastic toys. Sharkey will, if given the opportunity, consume them one small bite at a time. So I don’t have any in the house.

I called six dog food manufacturers about the BPA lining in their cans. When I could get no definitive answer from any of them I did my own study. I found one company that does not use BPA lining in their cans, Blue Buffalo, and thankfully that has been the product that my pets have been eating for quite awhile. All the more reason to make the food your dogs consume but remember not to store it in plastic in the refrigerator.

Alternatives to plastic are out there; it just takes a bit of research and re-investment. I have eliminated plastic for refrigerator storage and now use glass instead. When I travel I bring water for the dogs and myself in metal water bottles. All dishes have been switched over to ceramic and metal. The crates in which my dogs sometimes sleep and travel are made of plastic, but the dogs don’t consume them so I think I am safe in that regard. The company Simplhuman makes a dog food storage container out of stainless with a BPA free inner bucket. Solutions are available, but you need to look carefully.

In conclusion my dog adoring readers, the very things we give our pets to make their lives more exciting, more wonderful, more interesting, and more healthful, could be what is ultimately increasing their incidence of cancer, disease, and premature death. So think twice the next time you throw that ball, toss that toy, or open that can of food.